Stay quiet…?

Pilot - - TECH LOG -

As a FISO on Scot­tish In­for­ma­tion I must re­spond to Prof Michael Bagshaw’s let­ter (De­cem­ber) ‘Stay quiet… or maybe use a lis­ten­ing squawk’, and in par­tic­u­lar the rather dis­mis­sive sen­tence ‘A ba­sic ser­vice gives you noth­ing but the QNH…’.

Re­ceiv­ing an Air Traf­fic Ser­vice (ATS), even just a ba­sic ser­vice, goes far deeper than the pro­vi­sion of in­for­ma­tion. As with all ATSS, a ba­sic ser­vice also in­cor­po­rates an alert­ing ser­vice, some­body to put the wheels in mo­tion if some­thing were to go wrong with your flight.

Imag­ine you needed to de­clare a May­day — would you rather be in re­ceipt of a ser­vice where the FISO/ ATCO has your de­tails, air­craft type, POB, gen­eral lo­ca­tion/route, de­par­ture and des­ti­na­tion air­fields al­ready and in broad terms knows about you, or blind call­ing on a fre­quency to give all those de­tails whilst han­dling said emer­gency?

Many of our pi­lots check in on fre­quency, are put on a ba­sic ser­vice then get on with their flight, we of­ten only hear­ing from them again when they leave the fre­quency. Oth­ers utilise ev­ery­thing at our dis­posal: as well as the QNH we of­fer air­field weath­ers, have ac­cess to a weather radar, di­rect lines to other air­fields and ATSUS for co­or­di­na­tion, and can pro­vide up to date Dan­ger Area in­for­ma­tion to name a few — and of course can in­sti­gate any ac­tion re­quired if a May­day is de­clared. In­deed, one of your pre­vi­ous ILAFFT in­di­rectly ref­er­ences one of the Scot­tish In­for­ma­tion FISOS and is a great ex­am­ple of how re­ceiv­ing a ba­sic ser­vice can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence to your day.

It is also of in­ter­est to note the sen­tence ‘…the ATC unit knows who you are and can con­tact you if they need to?’ On a lis­ten­ing squawk the ATC unit does not know who you are, they do not know your call­sign, air­craft type or in­ten­tions. The ATC unit would only ‘know who you are’ af­ter es­tab­lish­ing di­rect two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion with you, ob­tain­ing your de­tails and iden­ti­fy­ing you, in other words putting you on a ser­vice! Oth­er­wise you are just a lis­ten­ing squawk on their radar to keep an eye on.

I un­der­stand from pi­lots who use our ser­vice that there is quite a dif­fer­ence be­tween Scot­tish In­for­ma­tion and Lon­don In­for­ma­tion due to the vol­ume of traf­fic that uses each ser­vice re­spec­tively. How­ever I would be dis­ap­pointed if new pi­lots, or pi­lots who fly largely in North­ern Eng­land and across Scot­land, were to take the Pro­fes­sor’s com­ments on board and de­cide not to re­quest a ba­sic ser­vice when one is avail­able; it could make all the dif­fer­ence one day. Jake Bar­ley, FISO/DTS

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